Elkhart, IN – Hoosier Thunder Motorsports team owners, Terry and Rhonda McMillen, announced today that the Amalie Oil InstiGator team will become a sponsor for the Division 4 Junior Dragster team of Alesi and Ayrton Gerthe. Sponsors for the InstiGator, which include:Amalie Oil, TORCO Racing Fuels, Flatout Gaskets, NGK Spark Plugs, MSD, Performance Graphics, Powershield Coatings and Crane Cams will support McMillen in the effort.
Alesi, a 15-year-old Rockdale, Texas freshman and her 13-year-old brother Ayrton are excited about the announcement. “This is the coolest thing; it’s a big opportunity for my family and me. We’re thankful to Mr. McMillen and all of the sponsors,” stated Alesi.
During the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals, McMillen had the chance to meet the Gerthe family and spend time with Alesi, an aspiring Pro Stock driver. “This family had an impact on our team,” explained McMillen. “After the race, we thought about how we might help young men and women in our sport. We came up with a simple idea: “Adopt A Junior Dragster”. It’s something we would like to challenge other professional and sportsman teams to do also.”
The “Adopt A Junior Dragster” program is designed to encourage and support young drivers to excel in school, while at the same time help them learn about all aspects of drag racing, sponsorship development and communication. The program will also encourage young drivers to take the lessons they have learned in school and utilize them in “real world” situations. Program participants will sharpen their reading, writing and communication skills, at the same time learning the responsibility and commitment of running a racing organization.
“Sherrie Barbour (Special Programs Director for IHRA) and her staff have done a great job developing the Junior Dragsters, commented Rhonda McMillen. “Not only is it a great way for families to play together and make friends with other families, it’s also developing the future drivers of our sport.”
Alesi and Ayrton cars will carry the logos of their sponsors. They will also be writing pre-race press releases for each event that they participate and distribute the press release to their sponsors. “We feel like this is a great chance to teach youngsters how to prepare a sponsorship proposal and how to communicate with their sponsors on an ongoing basis,” said Terry.
As sponsors of the InstiGator team, Amalie Oil, TORCO Racing Fuels, Flat Out Gaskets and NGK Spark Plugs will supply product in the “Adopt A Junior Dragster” program with McMillen.
Born To Race
Being in the seat of a race car might seem more of a birthright than an aspiration for the Gerthe family. Alesi and Ayrton are named after racers. Alesi is named after two-time Formula One World Champion Jean Alesi. Similarly, her younger brother, Ayrton, is named after the late Ayrton Senna, a three-time Formula One World Champion. Their father, Duane, also raced motocross for several years.
Alesi’s mother Lisa recalls, “Alesi wasn’t sure at first if she liked drag racing. But, once she had the chance to race her brother’s car, she fell in love with it. We knew that trying to share seat time would be a challenge.” Alesi added that she especially enjoys winning and meeting all of the different people at the races. Proving that IHRA Drag Racing is a family sport, the Gerthes spend their weekends racing. Dad Duane is crew chief for Alesi, and Mom Lisa handles the duties for son Ayrton.
Ayrton began his racing career in 2001 at the age of 9, enjoys video games (specifically racing games), paintball and Science and wants to become an Inventor and Top Fuel driver. His favorite IHRA drivers are Clay Millican and Terry McMillen.Ayton Gerthe
One of Ayrton’s first memories in drag racing was building his first car with his dad Duane. “We changed the backend to a custom,” he explained. “I really like that everybody in the family is in racing. We get to spend a lot of time together.” He also enjoys the tight points race and competition of racing head to head with friend Michael Zampese. “He pushes me a lot – I like that.” Ayrton took home his first Ironman last season at the 2004 PM-1 Jr. Nationals in San Antonio.
While there are other tracks closer to the Gerthe family, they choose to participate at the San Antonio Raceway. “Todd and Judy [Zampese] run their track very professionally and treat the Junior Dragsters very well,” commented Lisa Gerthe. Alesi recalls the recent national event when Todd Zampese escorted her family down to stand at the start line during Top Fuel qualifying. “That was exciting!” explained Alesi. “It’s hard to explain to people the feeling and vibrations when those cars take off.”
Alesi GertheAlesi brought home her first Ironman in 2004, in just her second year of racing. She watches the Pro Stock class carefully, hoping to find a seat in that class in the future and hopes to become an Elementary School Teacher.
McMillen sees the “Adopt A Junior Dragster” program as a unique opportunity to give back to the sport. “We’ve been very blessed over the years. We’ve got some of the best sponsors in drag racing including Amalie Oil, TORCO Racing Fuels, Flatout Gaskets, NGK Spark Plugs, MSD, Performance Graphics, Powershield Coatings and Crane Cams. This is our way of giving a little something back to the sport that means so much to our family.”
Teams wishing to get involved in the “Adopt A Junior Dragster” program who are unsure of how to find a Junior Dragster in their area are encouraged to contact Sherrie Barbour (firstname.lastname@example.org) at IHRA headquarters. Junior Dragster teams should follow IHRA.com and Drag Review Magazine for further details.